The seed of faith that would later blossom into Grace Bible Fellowship was carried from Michigan to North Carolina in August 1994 when my family and I arrived in the area to start a church. It was a seed that had been planted in my heart a few years earlier as I prayed for the Lord to show me what He would have me to do. The Lord had made it clear that I was to pastor a church but I had always thought that it would be a church with a long history. But the Lord began to use various events, individuals, and my own time studying the Bible to lay a new vision on my heart. This vision was of a multiethnic church, strongly committed to making Jesus known through accurate and practical Bible teaching, with relevant ministries to meet the needs in the lives of those in the church’s community.
After much prayer, counsel, an extensive demographic study of growth areas (including a research trip to Houston), the Raleigh-Durham area was laid on the heart of Carolyn and I. A few scouting trips to the area furthered our commitment. The Lord strongly confirmed that this was the place we needed to call our new home. So, Carolyn and our two boys “saddled up the truck” and moved to Raleigh.
From the very beginning God showed Himself faithful as He provided for us both socially and financially. During one of my trips to check out the area I met another individual who was going to be moving to the area to work with a Christian ministry. He and his wife were not sure about joining a new church start-up, for they had been burned in the previous churches they had been a part of, but they eventually committed full heartedly to the venture. They were our first core members. God also provided a job for me at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill doing research and began to bring individuals to work along side us to build His church.
During one of our early meetings with our core members around my kitchen table I shared with them my preference for the name Grace Fellowship because it was a name that summed up what I envisioned for this ministry. I envisioned that we would be a group of people who were brought together by the grace of God to enjoy His undeserved love and to work together to share His love with others. To my surprise the group did not agree with me and opted instead for the name Grace Bible Fellowship. Their reasoning was that this new church was characterized by its commitment to the Word of God and our very name needed to make that clear. How could I argue with that? So, we proudly bear that name to this day.
We were poised to move and on September 10, 1995 in the cafeteria of Davis Drive Middle School in Cary we held our first private service. God was faithful in that year as we stepped out in faith to rent this building with a handful of people and a little money we had saved. But the journey was just being shifted into another gear as we watched God grow us from that point. At the end of our time in the cafeteria we saw our savings increase and many visitors come to see what the church in the cafeteria was all about. As I look back on that period of time I am amazed that many of the skeptical visitors of that period have now become key members in Grace. A year later we moved to the auditorium of the West Cary Middle School and utilized other locations in the area to hold Bible studies.
In May 2000, the church finally moved to a permanent location at 830 Old Apex Road. We finally had a location where we could meet every Sunday and have ministry events throughout the week.
In a few years we outgrew our rental property and were in need of a new home. The search for a new home was begun and after a year we discerned that the Lord was leading us to purchase a building that was almost six times larger than our rental facility! This was a huge faith step but the Lord was faithful all the way. It would take too long to share with you all the answers to prayers He provided during this period, but I would love to sit down and tell you all the details some time. I am glad to say that with great praise for our God we moved into our new home November 2, 2003. But the journey does not end there.
We have a purpose at Grace that can be summed up in an acrostic that emphasizes our reason for being. The purpose of Grace Bible Fellowship is to develop leaders who will impact their communities and world for Jesus as we:
The result of this purpose is to see our church continue to actively participate in community ministries to the poor andneedy in the Triangle area as well as focus on addressing needs in various locations around the world.
Pastor Norm Peart